While it may not seem like baseball season after Monday's snow, in just two short months someone will be competing for a state title at Ripken Stadium in Aberdeen.
And for the first time in several years, one of those teams could be from Howard County.
It has been four years since a local team hoisted the state championship trophy, when River Hill went on a memorable run in 2009. One year later, Atholton and Hammond both had promising seasons end in the state semifinals.
But in each of the last two years, no local team has made it past the regional championship.
With four returning all-county players, including 2012 Player of the Year candidate Logan Dubbe, Glenelg is looking to end that trend.
Dubbe "has some incredible career numbers. He is going to reach 100 hits and 100 RBIs at some point this year, and he is also one of the best pitchers in the county," said coach Dave Boteler, whose team has lost in the regional championship three of the past four seasons, twice by only one run.
Reservoir, which has won each of the past two District V titles but has never made it to the state tournament, is also looking to take the next step this year.
The Gators have graduated a Player of the Year each of the past two seasons (T.J. Pipik in 2011 and Lee Lawler in 2012), but bring back sophomore Cody Morris, the 2012 county Pitcher of the Year and a preseason MSABC all-state selection.
"I think Glenelg is going to be real strong and I think River Hill is going to be real strong. Hammond is going to be real strong, but there are a lot of teams. Oakland Mills has got two really good pitchers (Joe Zayatz and Kyle Madden-Stricker). Howard is going to be tough. Everybody is going to be tough," said Reservoir coach Adam Leader, whose opening day line-up featured six sophomores in the field. "We're really young so it's going to be interesting to see what these guys do ... but I think as a county as a whole, it's going to be an interesting year. I think it's going to be kind of like college basketball, everybody's going to take lumps and when it comes down to the end, it's going to be who's ready to rock and roll."
River Hill, the last local team to win a state title, seemed primed for a dominant season with the one-two punch of Richie Lancashire and Evan Griffin. But Griffin, a preseason all-state selection who was poised to join the career 100-hit club this season, suffered a preseason hip injury and will be sidelined for his senior campaign.
Among the private schools, Chapelgate (MIAA C Conference) and Glenelg Country (MIAA B Conference) will each try to take the next step in 2013 after a successful 2012 season.
The league will see only one new coach this season, as Casey Medairy takes over at Hammond.
Michael Lerner, who coached the Golden Bears for ten years total while taking off one year in 2011 after his son was born, stepped down again after last season to focus on his career as an educator and administrator.
Medairy played at Howard High School, earning second team all-county honors as a senior outfielder in 2007. That same year he won a county title in the indoor pole vault.
At the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, Medairy was a productive four-year outfielder, starting more than 100 games. He spent one year as the head JV coach at Atholton before coming to Hammond.
"I was more than happy to take the opportunity. This is what I want to do is coach varsity baseball," said Medairy, who is also currently finishing up his training as a student teacher. "We've got some work to do but I know that we can compete in this county."
Around the horn
Here is a look at all 14 county teams as the season begins.
* 2012 first-team all-county selection; ^ 2012 second-team all-county selection.